Student Watch: Winter 2011

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“I’m so fat!”

While some may roll their eyes, for most college women this statement is no laughing matter. Rachel Salk PhDx’16, a UW psychology graduate student who conducted a study while at Northwestern University, found that an astonishing 93 percent of female students engage in this type of “fat talk” with their friends, regardless of their actual weight.

Complaining about feeling fat can be covering up true emotions, ranging from guilt about eating that extra slice of pie to genuine body dissatisfaction. No matter the reasons, though, women in Salk’s study were most often seeking a reassuring response along the lines of, “Are you kidding? You look great!”

So does all this fat talk make anyone feel better? A majority of women say that it helps to know they’re not alone in struggling with their body image, but Salk says the evidence points to the contrary — that the fat talk increases anxiety.

“Women might think that hearing this confirmation will make them feel better about their bodies, but at some level, they [dismiss the reassurance],” says Salk. Her research uncovered a correlation between fat talk frequency and actual body dissatisfaction, suggesting that the more you talk fat, the more inclined you are to believe it.

Published in the Winter 2011 issue

Tags: Health and medicine, Student life, Students

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